There are some lives you mourn, although you may have never met that person and they may have lived long and full, because the world is a little emptier with their passing. Hearing the news on the radio this morning of Alex Colville's death at the age of 92, that is how I felt.
Images of many of his large, detailed masterpieces will appear in the minds of those thinking of this extraordinary artist, but it was the smallest of his works that first brought him to my attention as a young boy.
Great mounds of maple leaves, stampedes of beaver and caribou, and the oceans of schooners can become a tad repetitive, thus it was the designs on the coinage of Canada's centennial year that made me take notice of the tiny pieces of art that we pocket every day and made me realize that I must have missed quite a celebration in 1967, vowing to live to see our bicentennial in 2067 - envious of the Americans who were so close to seeing theirs.
I wasn't aware at the time of the name of the artist, but it was the clean lines of the dove and mackerel - referred to as the bird and fish by me back then - that turned me into a numismatist. Of course, the gentle grace of the hare and the splendor of the bobcat were wonderful, but for some reason, it was the former two that I loved the most.
Although I have never met Alex Colville, I can't say I've never had any sort of interaction with the man. I've mentioned before that I collect autographs. In November of 1995 I sent a letter to Alex at his home in Wolfville, Nova Scotia telling him that he was the reason I collected coins and that I would love to interview him regarding the 1967 coinage. Included was a small index card requesting his autograph. A mere six days later I opened the envelope he sent back and found the card signed with a note added: "Sorry, but I don't want to have an interview." Of course, I found out later that there is a book available, albeit not easy to find, all about his trials designing these coins.
Colville openly approached his work as work, something that may not have been cool with the critics and other artists of the time, but was beyond smart as this planned businesslike technique in obtaining a career led him toward a life full of successes on both the personal and professional sides.
He lived with love, respect, celebration, recognition and reward and examining the making of this man would be something I would recommend to anyone, especially a young person with an attraction to the arts.